On October 12 and 13, 2022, a LIFE Platform meeting on Innovative Approaches in Coastal Wetlands Management was held in the International Congress Center Burgas in the Foros Hall, dedicated to 30 years since the launch of the European LIFE program, which finances only nature conservation projects.
70 participants live in the hall and online and dozens who followed the streaming on social media got acquainted with 16 presentations by experts from Europe. 10 LIFE projects and 5 other European projects from Italy, Spain, Greece, Montenegro, Bulgaria, etc. were presented, as well as a poster session including 7 posters from France, Bulgaria and the USA (through an online presentation by the students from the State University of Colorado, worked for three months in Atanasovsko lake).
The objectives of the meeting were to explore and outline integrated and new approaches to the conservation of coastal wetlands with their characteristic habitats and species diversity in three main directions:
• Coastal wetland governance and cross-sectoral cooperation
• Innovative approaches to restoration, conservation and monitoring
• The socio-economic value of coastal wetlands
On wetland management and cross-sectoral cooperation, the discussion focused on local participation through management contracts and voluntary involvement of stakeholders, undertaken by the Italian Maristanis project. As a successful example, the Public Council was presented as a mechanism for involving various interested parties in the management of Atanasovsko Lake. To outline challenges the case study of Pomorie Lake’s explained the difficulty to manage a wetland without a Management Plan. Specific interest presented the mechanism to incentivize/ penalize stakeholders who do not comply with the management contracts.
In terms of innovative approaches to the restoration, conservation and monitoring of wetlands, the cases of the Ulcinj salina wetland in Montenegro (the suspension of salt mining, the change of ownership and the campaign to save the territory), the successful restoration of the Atanasovsko Lake lagoon (proven from the settlement of the iconic Great Flamingo, which has found here an optimal feeding ground), as well as the Spanish examples from L'Albufera, Valencia (where significant parts of the land have been purchased and restored). The multidisciplinary approach to the restoration of the inner part of the Venetian lagoon and the theme of including and engaging with fishermen as a specific target group were presented.
A series of presentations focused on the use of wetlands as an indicator of climate change. Restoration of seagrass beds was the focus of the three presentations. Colleagues from the LIFE TRANSFER Project presented the experience of seagrass restoration as a tool for protecting coastal habitats in Italy, Spain and Greece and the irreplaceable benefits that these until recently neglected elements of coastal biodiversity provide.
The emphasis on nature-based solutions was particularly important, as a relatively new tool of the socio-economic aspect of wetlands. The carbon storage potential of wetlands and methods for its calculation has been presented as an important element of the increasingly popular carbon economy.
"Burgas with its Atanasovsko Lake is a natural centre for such a meeting - the rich biodiversity, the preserved tradition of salt extraction, and the successful cooperation of many interested parties are a great opportunity to share the management model, but also to attract here the European experience to help us build on and we are developing our efforts to preserve this ecosystem unique to the Black Sea and to promote its importance for society." - share the organizers of the LIFE project "Lagoon of Life" (http://lagoon.biodiversity.bg )
"Today, the salt pans are facing great challenges, because the small ones are doomed to loss and extinction under the pressure of the big salt pans in Egypt, Tunisia, Israel, etc. The high cost of production and the low price, the lack of labor and the need for large investments are some of the reasons for their decline. Namely, they are the most favourable for birds and biodiversity. Man over the centuries has largely created the varied conditions in these amazing ecosystems. Today they are as we see them precisely because of the extraction of salt from them. And for the great biodiversity to be maintained, these places need constant care and effort, which we want to demonstrate." - says Spas Uzunov, BBF Conservation expert.
The afternoon of the second day was dedicated to a field visit to Atanasovsko lake, where the participants saw the "last Mohicans" who collect the salt by hand. The restoration of the three earth dykes in the northern part was presented, which will improve the water circulation and will provide new and better nesting opportunities for birds. The restoration of small dykes and the cleaning of internal channels has been demonstrated as a tool to reduce the effects of fragmentation and eutrophication caused by the action of the Salinas on the ecosystem. The active migration of buzzards and falcons delighted the birdwatchers, and dozens of Great Flamingos, Shelducks, Shovelers and Avocets satisfied the interest of the other guests.